Brenda’s cell phone rang at 7:36 pm the next day.
“If it isn’t not-quite-Commander Raydor!” Brenda had put two glasses of wine away in the past 45 minutes. She was feeling pretty happy.
“Hey.” Sharon sounded small, smaller than Brenda had ever heard her, and disaffected. Brenda’s buzz faded immediately.
“Oh no, what happened?” She asked, urgent and concerned.
“Well, I said thanks, but no thanks. Nicely. Very nicely.” Sharon let out a shuddering breath and Brenda’s heart ached for her. “And Pope got this look on his face, like he thought I wasn’t worth the dirt on the sole of his shoe, and said I wasn’t properly appreciative of the opportunity he was giving me.”
“Giving you!” Brenda was beyond outraged. “You’ve earned a promotion about a thousand times over in the past year. Dealing with me alone shoulda gotten you a star on your collar.” Sharon dabbed at her tearing eyes a little and smiled a watery smile at the Chief’s vehemence.
“Thanks, Chief. But I don’t think they hand out promotions for just escaping Major Crimes and Brenda Leigh Johnson unscathed,” Sharon said sardonically.
“You say that like you wouldn’t be the only one eligible for that promotion, Sharon.” Brenda sassed, though Sharon could hear the tease in her voice. Sharon was feeling too raw to tease back.
She went for a truth, instead, though she couched it in a little ambiguity. “And you seem to think I got away with no scars to show for my efforts.”
Brenda worried her lower lip. That could be interpreted in a few ways, but Sharon had said, explicitly that the battles they had fought in the past were behind them. Brenda hoped that bad blood wouldn’t well up between her and Sharon whenever one of them was feeling hurt. She decided she would leave it alone, and hoped that the small silence on the line would let Sharon know she had felt the jab as intended.
“So what happened next?” Brenda asked, clearing her throat of the knot that had formed there. Pope’s idiocy was a much safer topic, something that Brenda could offer solace and advice about. She couldn’t do anything about the past other than apologize repeatedly and profusely while trying to do better for Sharon in the future.
“I told him I would be happy to continue in my current position, one that makes use of all my skills, protecting the LAPD and the community, just as I have for a decade. That I’m open to new opportunities, but not ones that I’m sure would make me feel less useful than where I already am, than the jobs I’m already doing. And then he had the gall to say that my age was a ‘strong mitigating factor against more conventional avenues of promotion’.” Sharon sucked in some air to keep the tears from spilling over and continued:
“So I’m promotable enough and pretty enough to be one of the public faces of the department, but too old to expect a more serious promotion that involves actual police work.” She started crying in earnest.
“Oh Sharon.” Brenda railed at her powerlessness to help Sharon in this situation. But more than that, she wanted to take the other woman in her arms and let her cry herself out. She wanted Sharon to want that from her. More than anything. “I’m so sorry, honey.”
Sharon didn’t cry for long, just long enough to let go of the impotent rage that had been sitting on her chest, suffocating her, for most of the day. Despite her roiling emotions, she was pleasantly surprised and warmed by the fact that Brenda had turned out to be exactly the right person to call in her hour of need. Apparently the Chief could offer emotional succor and roll with a sucker punch as well as she listened to Sharon and helped her tease a resolution from her own conflicted thinking. Sharon was glad that, in spite of all the reasons she had to not trust Brenda Leigh Johnson, she had trusted her instincts instead.
“Thanks for letting me get that out, Brenda. I didn’t mean to get weepy on you.” Sharon swiped a mangled tissue under her nose.
“You’re angry and upset with good cause, Sharon. I’m happy to be your cellular shoulder, even if I can’t really do anything to help,” not trying to hide that her voice was heavy with the empathetic tears she was fighting back on Sharon’s behalf.
“You helped, Brenda, and I’ll feel better, nearly back to normal, even, after a good night’s sleep and a quiet weekend. I’ve always known I didn’t do myself any professional favors taking a position in FID, I just need to get my perspective back.”
“You’re the best of us, Sharon Raydor,” Brenda husked softly. “You do a thankless job with integrity and honor. Take care of yourself tonight, and if you need to talk again, please call, no matter the time.” Sharon murmured a thank you and good night, sighed, and hung up, leaving Brenda Leigh holding a silent phone to her ear, contemplating what she could do for Sharon to make the next few days at least a little brighter.